Monday, January 30, 2012

Music for Your Mondays

Play the Belgian National Anthem, because those guys dominated the Cyclocross Worlds this weekend. Also, Marianne Vos proved that she is the hardest working man in showbusiness.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dust Off the Horse Blanket and Saddle Up

Happy new year to all, or as some would say more formally, Greetings in the name of the most high, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of Melchizedek, Emperor of Ethiopia, Son of Solomon and Sheba, ever-living, ever-faithful, ever-sure, His Majesty Haile Selassie I, Ras Tafari.

First off the bat, congrats to the US Nationals cyclocross fields for going all out in the frozen icy conditions of Madison, WI. That stuff was crazy. Second off the bat, congrats to the UCI for holding the Cyclocross Masters World Championships at Eva Bandman park in Louisville Kentucky, the first time ever that a World Champs was held outside of Europe. I plan to spectate in 2013 when the Elite World Championships will be held at the same venue, and by most accounts the Masters version went off beautifully. Third off the bat, congrats to local vegan powerhouse Steevo for being the 5th fastest cyclocrosser in his age group IN THE WORLD! That stuff was crazy too. Elite Championships are taking place this weekend in Koksijde, Belgium, so do like me, get yourself an internet connection and get your stream on.

Things have been wet and sloggy here in beautiful Pittsburgh, PA. I would like to be able to report that I have been logging in some long, wet, road rides over the course of January but the reality is that after getting home in the dark after my daily bicycle commute to and from work I pretty much hunker down with the rugrats and call it a night. Which leads nicely into the next order of business for today: a little product review of the Nite Rider MiNewt 600 Cordless bicyle light, shown below with handlebar mount.

Now for those people who have known me for some time, I will start off by admitting that for many years, I thought it was silly to bedazzle a bicycle with lots of lights and shiny objects and therefore, for those many years, I did not use any lights when operating my bicycles in the dark. Maybe old age has changed me, or maybe I have actually gotten a bit smarter, but for about the past 5 years, I have made an effort to be seen when cycling in the dark. I have used several different brands and styles of lights, small and big, both front and back. Although I do not own any powerful night-riding lights for MTB use, I have borrowed them on many occasions with delight. I mostly purchased the MiNewt 600 for commuting, but I also wanted a light that could work for off-road night riding in the event that those people whom I borrow lights from get fed up with my begging. I have been using the light everyday for over three months and it has not given me any problems.

The light has only one button, which glows faint green when turned on and glows a faint red when the battery needs charging. The charging can be accomplished with a a USB connection or a wall jack and takes about 5 hours to fully charge. The light has a total of 5 modes: low, medium, high, flashing, and a dim "walk" mode. The waterproof case preforms admirably: I have ridden several times in pouring rain for 45 minutes and the light has never blinked. On one particularly cold day this winter, after my bicycle and light sat outside in single digits Fahrenheit for a few hours, the light would not turn on. I used that as an excuse to head into the nearest bar and warm up with a stiff drink; full functions returned after about 10 minutes of being indoors (the light's functions that is, I haven't been fully functional since I was about 13 years old) and I had no problems on the remainder of ride.

How bright is this light, you may be asking yourself, if you're still awake. Inspired by the folks at Dirt Rag magazine who did a fantastic job of documenting off road lighting systems in recent issues, I have some photographic evidence to help answer that.

First, here is a rainy dark Pittsburgh alley, illuminated with the little $20 light, that, if I had friends, I would lend to them on nights when we pedaled through the city on our way to concerts, movies, and the life of glamor.

And here is the the MiNewt 600 shown on the low setting.

Here is the the MiNewt 600 shown on the high setting.

I have used the light for a few MTB night rides and it is actually just as good as some more expensive light systems out there. On the high setting the light lasts 3 hours. The helmet mount is included with the light.

Impossible for me to capture (with my rudimentary photography skills) is the flash mode. Be warned, the flash mode is surprisingly bright and can illuminate reflective surfaces like license plates and road signs for up to three city blocks--no exaggeration, the flash mode is so bright that the unz unz unz of techno music starts thumping in my mind when I have it on. The flash mode could trigger seizures.

Overall, I like using this light a lot. With this light, I have actually noticed drivers wait to let me pass at intersections where, when using dimmer bike lights, I have seen cars pull out in front of me. The light functions in all but the most unmerciful weather conditions, is easy to charge, and can double as a MTB night riding light. The MSRP is $160.

Get out the cowbells for Cross Worlds and have a great weekend!